Legend of Black Heaven
Tanaka Ouji is having a hard time. His job stinks, his wife and his son don't understand him, and his most prized possesion, a "Flying V" electric guitar from his college days as a rock idol, has just been thrown out with the trash. On the brink of despair, he allows himself to be lured into the local model homes by a beautiful young co-worker named Layla, but gets far more than he expected! It turns out, that his attractive kohai is, in fact, an alien from outer space, and she wants Ouji to play his guitar for her. Ouji's music, it turns out, creates an effect that can activate her race's "Ultimate Weapon", an enormous space cannon that her people are trying to use to beat back an enemy out to destroy them all. For Ouji, it's a chance to relive his glory days as a rocker, for Layla it's the last best hope for her people, and for Ouji's wife, Yoko, it's a major headache ... after all, what will the neighbors think?
The parallels to Macross and the slavering horde of copycat anime that followed it are immediately obvious to seasoned anime viewers, but there is one key difference between this anime and its fellow carbon-copies of the whole "Music Will Save the Universe" premise:
It doesn't suck.
For one, the music is great. The title song by John Sykes (yes, English lyrics, not J-pop!) is very good, with a hard rock beat and tempo that fits the whole mood of the show. It's slightly overplayed compared to the three or so other songs that make an appearance, but it never really becomes annoying.
That said, this anime really isn't so much about the music that Ouji plays, but rather it's a story about regaining one's youth. It's about breaking away from the humdrum of everyday life and relearning what it is that makes you want to get up in the morning. It's about family, and how we sometimes hurt the people we love through our inability to see what's really going on with them. Friendship and loyalty to yourself are the main themes here; the over-the-top space war premise is just a catalyst.
Now then, with all that philosophical stuff out of the way, this show has a lot of fun things about it too. My favorites (twisted little gnome that I am) were the three assistants to Ms. Layla, who were constantly missing the point of serious conversations, making bad (I mean BAD) puns, and ngaging in various sight gags. There were spoofs on famous music stars (both western and Japanese), and even parodies of famous American and Japanese television shows. Spot the X-Files gag and you get a cookie!
The animation was very attractive as well, being done in the same style as Bubblegum Crisis 2040, with computers doing most of the inking. The CG spaceships were a little out of place at first, but as the story went on, I became used to seeing them, and some of the ship designs are extremely cool looking (the Ultimate Weapon configured into its most powerful form is very impressive to see on a big screen).
Black Heaven is a fun ride, with plenty to offer for fans who like hard rock music, beautiful female aliens and giant CG battleships. It also has a story that I think would appeal to the more shoujo-oriented crowd as well, with sympathetic characters all around. The repetitive music and slow pace of the story may turn off more action-oriented fans, but Black Heaven, in this reviewer's opinion, just plain rocks.
Add a star if you like rock music and CG. — Jason Bustard
Recommended Audience: Brief nudity late in the series. Adult themes abound (adultery amongst them, although nothing actually ever happens). Naughty four letter words printed on the shirt of a character later in the series. This is a series that parents may wish to watch before allowing younger teens to view, not for graphic content, but rather, repeated innuendo.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Legend of Black Heaven © 1999 AIC / Pioneer LDC
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